A Review of NY Asian Sales and more

The Financial Times has just posted a very good review of the past Asian art sales held in NY at Christie's and Sotheby's.  The analysis is compares the NY market to Hong Kong and the fundamental conclusions are about the same as I posted the other week which is the Chinese market is strong and performing to expectations, but expectations are not quite as high as they have been in the past.  The article notes some of the high level lot which did not hit reserve levels and the overall buy in rate of the sales as acceptable, but certainly far from strong.

There is also some quick updates on the growing number of art fairs, and a short note from art economist Clair McAndrews who reports that perhaps only 2%-5% of galleries are responsible for over half of all gallery sales.  That is far beyond the general 80/20 rule or guideline, which would state that 80% of sales come from the top 20% of participants.

The FT art market update is a good, short update that will only take 5 minutes of time to review, but you will come away with some interesting perspectives.

The FT reports

The New York market for Chinese art is different from that in Hong Kong: the US is traditionally stronger for Chinese furniture and early works such as Song ceramics or archaic bronzes, whereas in Asia buyers favour the Qing dynasty (1644-1911), with a particular affection for the great Qianlong emperor during whose long reign (1735-96) the dynasty was at the zenith of its power. The ceramics and works of art of this period are colourful and decorative, in contrast to the more sober earlier works. “Buyers in Hong Kong like to ‘see the value’,” says Henry Howard-Sneyd, Sotheby’s vice-chairman of Asian art in New York.

However, Sotheby’s sale of Chinese works saw four of the top five lots bought in – two pairs of chairs, and two archaic bronzes, leading to a buy-in rate by lot of 32.8 per cent and a total of $22.7m. Dealers said the estimates of the bronzes were punchy (one archaic vessel had a target of $2.5m-$3m) and Howard-Sneyd, who took the sale, said that the market “wasn’t as fizzy as before”. Only one piece went over $1m, a 5th-century gilt-bronze Buddha bought by London’s Eskenazi. What may have also influenced the outcome, although Howard-Sneyd denies this, was the importation of the Hong Kong system of “premium lots” – the case with the five top estimated lots for which potential buyers had to register in advance and pay a deposit.

Christie’s, which traditionally dominates the New York market, did far better with its $38.8m sale of Chinese works of art, with just 20 per cent by lot bought in. It only fielded one lot over $1m, a large gilt-bronze figure of Vairocana which made $1.3m. But the top billing was for a Qianlong moonflask, which went for almost three times estimate at $2.7m, and in a separate sale of a jade collection an 18th-century jade melon box fetched $2.1m (estimate: $100,000-$150,000), going to an Asian dealer. But a number of the pricier works were left on the block. Jonathan Stone, Christie’s head in Asia, said: “We are seeing a degree of renewed price sensitivity in this market”.

Click HERE to read the complete Financial Times art market update.

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